During the last half of this past season of The Amazing Race, contestant Matt spent two episodes wearing spandex tights putting his whole lower body on display. Always in action, sometimes he would be perfectly framed, and a nice pause and perfectly timed screenshot would reveal the glory of his ass and legs.
This season of the reality show features Tanner & Josh a team that wears tights under their shorts. This is all they’ve been wearing since the race began. The two have amazing looking bodies. They are hot guys; I want to fuck them both. But I also want to liberate them from those baggy shorts they insist on wearing over their tights!
In a recent episode, “Get In There & Think Like a Dog”, Tanner had to perform an aerials tango, an artistically beautiful moment, queered by an unexplained partnering (I assume to match weights when performing an aerials section of the dance) in which the men danced with men and the women with women. Tanner, a Texas boy, was comfortable in the moment, even if he wasn’t the best dancer and his leg and foot work was pretty good for an amature.
What was key however, was that his legs were on display– but only from the knees down. Bare feet, tight, spandex covered calves. It was both a beautiful and sexy moment, ruined by a pair of baggy gym shorts. Had Tanner taken off the shorts and danced in his tights, thereby displaying a male body, comfortable and free within a material that is so often negatively associated with being a constricting and binding fabric it would have been a moment that is not only sexy, but shows the the perfection of the male body, at least from the waist down.
Obsessing over Matt and Tanner's spandex coated legs caused me to wonder why we don’t see a lot more displays of the male body like this one in cinema, television, and in the real world.
During the era of Greek art, the male body was put on display, it was objectified as the perfect specimen. Men were carved from marble, their body showing others the perfection that was close to godliness, cast into marble, nude, not just as art but as an example for the perfect body.
Today, we still have the perfect male: athletes and actors, put on pedestals for their perfected bodies. And yet I feel their display is treated differently. One could say it is the constant "fear" that men who look at other men must be gay, but it could also be that society as a whole prefers to see the female body objectified and put on display than that of the male counterpart.
We live in stifled society. As mentioned the Greeks and later the Romans perfected the art of sculpture of the male body. The Romantic era brought about a more effeminate and yet still on display male. Through this period, men of certain classes dressed in tight, tapered pants or in some cases, tights and stockings. Obviously the fabric wasn't spandex, that's a 20th century creation, but the look produced was that of a male leg and often a male crotch on display.
Now, in the 21st century, we still feel the effects left behind by the prudish values that Victorian society clamped over the freedoms of the earlier Romantic period. We were taught that our bodies were private, something to keep to ourselves. While the sexual revolution of the 1960’s, feminism, and gay rights movement has changed this quite a bit, full displays of the nude body still skew more toward female bodies. The fashion industry puts the female form on display, seen as a perfect form showcasing the nude leg, shoulders, bare arms and midriffs. The male form, on the other hand, is often shown as something to be hidden behind jackets, jeans, and baggy clothing. With the exception of fitness fashion, the male body is often hidden under many layers of garments. Even as children most of us were told that if something were too tight, it wasn’t our size, and that the bigger and bulkier the better. In other words, we have learned that we should hide our male bodies.
In the case of tights, something that normally is just worn by women or hair-bands from the 80s has branched from something athletes can use for practical uses, to something weekend warriors can wear to show their toughness.
While spandex is slowly but surely becoming mainstream, it isn’t yet the norm to wear your tights everyday in every part of the world. Liberal, urban areas are the places where it’s acceptable so far, and even so, it’s not like guys have replaced jeans with tights. They’ve replaced them with joggers and I have mixed feelings about this. I used to wear sweatpants growing up, only to be made fun of for being “unfashionable,” and now they are all the rage. Joggers seems to be applicable to anytime, anywhere. That said, the fit looks great on most guys and it begins to bleed the line between spandex becoming something that belongs in the gym and something that belongs on the street in that the fit and cut, in many ways, replicates that of tights.
But until there is a day that a man can go grocery shopping in a bodysuit is the day we have fully saturated the common space. In the sporting world this is commonplace. Since moving to Toronto I’ve seen a guy in head to toe 2XU and another in a tribal print cycling suit, while having tribal arm tattoos, it was quite the sight. But I don’t see it all the time, as many men are still unsure of themselves in tights. Advertisements still show men wearing shorts over their tights and in real life many do when working out.
Being covered head to toe in spandex is being of two worlds. On one hand you only have a thin layer fabric keeping you from being totally naked to the whole world. On the other hand, you are still completely clothed, sometimes with only your head exposed. Guys treat it like it it’s actual nudity, and therefore they cover it with baggy gym shorts and hoodies. If guys can start to change their point of view, and treat spandex like any other article of clothing, they won't feel naked, they'll feel liberated.